Confessing Jesus

Steven Clark Goad

There are two kinds of people in the world: 1) Truth seekers, and 2) Those who don't care. Those seeking "the truth" that provides eternal life are the kind of people who are asking and knocking. So we must learn to "answer" those who are "asking."

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that before we can deliver the saving gospel someone must grab us by our lapels and cry, "Please give me the answers to life!" What I am advocating is that spending a lot of time and words on someone who isn't interested is simply not our commission. Casting pearls before swine is discouraging.

We have become an argumentative fellowship. A hostile approach usually doesn't work. Defending the faith does not include disemboweling a brother. Not only can we not agree with each other, but we have alienated outsiders by our know-it-all, we've-got-it-you've-missed-it attitude. Nobody has a monopoly on truth, not even we.

There are many ways people allow Christians to know when they want answers. But even when we get the cue this does not give us the right to tell all we know in one sitting. Neither do we have the privilege of setting every heretic straight every time he mispronounces shibboleth.

We need to learn that our mission is to tell people how much Christ is right rather than how much they are wrong. We must develop the skills to search out truth seekers. They are eager to learn. And they'll have a lot of questions. But we must refrain from the temptation to answer questions that aren't being asked. We are too ready to tell people more than they need to know at any given moment. Those of us who have taken upon ourselves the task of being teachers did not develop overnight.

We are too hung up on words that have dual meanings. Reverend, pastor, choir, join the church, revival, lay, clergy, etc. all need to be understood for what they are and are not. But we need not run off potential converts by making points that will have little consequence whether or not one devotes his life to Christ. We have rejected clerics and laity while retaining pulpit and pew. None of these are Biblical. But we often say much that denominational circles express only with our "peculiar" vocabulary.

If one wishes to argue the point concerning our special vocabulary please allow me to give a few examples: 1) Their Reverend is equivalent to our Brother [written with a capital letter and used to refer to the preacher]; 2) Pastor equals Minister [as though somehow all Christians aren't ministers]; 3) Choir = Chorus [It's all right if we call it a chorus]; 4) Join the church = a] Come forward, b] Give your life to Christ, c] Obey the gospel, etc., 5) Revival = Gospel Meeting; 6) Laity = Membership; 7) Clergy = a] Full time paid gospel preacher, b] Our minister, c] The preacher, d] Brother Jones; 8) Sanctuary = Auditorium; 9) Seminary = Christian College; 10) Party Organ = Brotherhood Paper; 11) False Doctrine = What anybody else teaches besides us; 12) The Truth = What we teach. Enough! I cheated a little on the last two.

Please, I am not saying words are not important. I am not suggesting we stop calling Bible things by Bible names. Speaking where the Bible speaks is a healthy practice. But a rose by any other name is still a rose. We know what people mean without having to correct them every time they use a word inappropriately. We can't convert people by calling them out concerning their mistaken ecclesiastical vocabulary. I know of a woman who drove away a fine couple who visited our congregation and made the mistake of calling the preacher "Reverend." They said at the door, "Reverend, that was one of the finest lessons we have heard in years!" The good sister collared them and gave them a disertation on "Reverend" and using the language of Ashdod. Did she make her point? Maybe. Did she win a soul? Never!

There are lost souls begging to discover what genuine undenominational Christianity is all about. We must reach out to them. We must not convert souls to our particular brand of Church of Christism. The kingdom of God is not a denomination but some of us have all but invited the accusation to be thrown at us that we are denominational. Saying we don't celebrate Christmas and then celebrating it belies us. Saying we reject religious titles then calling our "pulpit preachers" (Christ never had a pulpit) Brother sounds inconsistent. Parroting that there are no proper names given in the New Testament for God's church and then using "church of Christ" exclusively doesn't square well with perceptive minds.

Those of us who take seriously the commission to preach the good news ought to give more serious thought to what that really entails. Is it life changing news about a risen Lord and a spiritual dwelling place or is it pretty speeches about a religious movement fomented during pioneer American days? Is rescuing the perishing a matter of explaining how one can participate with Christ in death, burial and resurrection or is it a matter of discussing a restoration movement that was intended to bring unity but which actually resulted in multiple warring factions and parties?

It seems to me that we have spent a lot of time establishing syllogisms about matters that don't matter. If we are saved by grace through faith then why all the rhetoric about what we can and can't do in the name of the Lord? Nobody is going to heaven because he is correct on every doctrinal matter in scripture. If this were the case then none of us would make it. I wish I could motivate my brethren to get as excited about evangelism and other divine imperatives as they do about what can be done within and on the church (building) premises. Will I really have a better hope of glory if I refuse to eat a ham sandwich in the church house?

Confessing Jesus, this is our profession. How we do it is vitally important. Some admit this and refuse to do any of it. But Jesus requested (commanded) that we go into all the world and preach...not alienate, not judge, not argue, not fight...PREACH! Preach what? The gospel! Not church politics, not church doctrine, not party hobbies, not orphan homes, not church schools, not how many cups we can use for the wine, not whether the wine should be fermented or unfermented, not whether it is right to teach the Bible before Sunday morning worship, not whether we may or may not have a potluck in the church basement even though we have restrooms, padded pews and everything else that we need to make us comfortable. Just the gospel. That's all.

It is not too late to become like Philip with the eunuch. Can we begin where the people are? Can we take them to where they need to go? Can we rescue the perishing and care for the dying without inflicting any more wounds than they already have? Haven't we yet learned that cramming unwanted food down unwilling throats can be unproductive if there is a better way?

Jesus once told us what the sign of a Christian is. It wasn't being a subscriber to the "sound" and "faithful" brotherhood slander sheet. It wasn't in one's ability to defeat errorists in debate. It wasn't in one's ability to master Greek and Hebrew nor set the sects straight. The mark of a Christian was/is love - And love compels us to share a loving story of a sacrificial savior in a lovely manner. Jesus never gave us the license to be harsh in our treatment of lost souls. We must learn to persuade humanity with compassion. What a divine privilege!